Bioethics Blogs

Inhabitable Worlds: Troubling disability, debility, and ability narratives by Michele Friedner

This series will interrogate the theoretical tools and approaches that scholars bring to the study of disability in the social sciences. Scholars have recently turned a focused attention on different states of bodily and sensorial experience; we aim to connect these concerns with questions about how people experiencing such differences create inhabitable worlds. In doing so, we draw inspiration from Martin Heidegger’s provocative neologism “worlding.” Building on Heidegger, Mei Zhan states that worlds are “emergent socialities entangled in dynamic imaginaries of pasts, futures, and presents” and that they are constantly being made and remade (Zhan 2009, 6). We see “inhabitable worlds” as both analytic and material worlds, worlds that have existed, that do exist, and that will exist. And perhaps most importantly, we see inhabitable worlds as worlds that people themselves inhabit and aspire towards.

In approaching bodies and senses through the lens of inhabitable worlds, we aim to further inquire into age-old scholarly investigations about embodiment to think through a current fascination with the senses and to trouble social categories such as “disability,” “debility,” and “ability.” Grappling with narratives about bodily function and the senses, we propose a series where scholars go beyond the binaries of ability and disability, and capacity and incapacity, to understand the body and senses as being volatile, unstable, and in flux. This series focuses on inhabitable worlds both as an alternative to and a mode to think through medical concepts of rehabilitation and habilitation. Medical discourses shape the ways people come to experience bodily difference; people also transform these discourses through political advocacy and personal tactics they develop to navigate the material realities of bodily differences and built environments .

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.